Oct 14 Spa Day…
Yesterday we had a stop in Bar Harbor. Now, I fully understand that I am not like most avid cruisers who love days at sea. I enjoy a day at sea, but I won’t fly halfway across the world to join a cruise ship just to spend 90% of my vacation stuck on a cruise ship - I don’t care how nice it is.
This is a very nice ship. As I said previously it just has a very serene atmosphere and the service is impeccable.
But two days ago we had a stop in Halifax, and we were only there from 2:00 to 5:00 - three hours. Now, in truth we had enough time to see everything we wanted to see, and we got back to the ship before “last call.” The same was true of Bar harbor, Maine, where we were there from 1:45 TO 5:30 (TIMES ARE ROUGH), and once again we saw all we cared to see and we got back barely before “last call.”
But here is the thing - those stays in port are too short. Why would I say this if we saw everything and even got back early? We only saw everything because we rushed the entire time. It was “go, go, go.” From the time we walked off to the time we got back. We walked fast, left the church early, skipped going inside the Citadel, didn’t browse for bargains, didn’t eat a local lunch, etc.
In Bar Harbor I had some of the best fresh Maine Lobster ever - but I wasn’t as hungry as I wanted to be when I found the perfect place because I had just eaten lunch. Given a longer day, I would not have eaten lunch and I would have enjoyed that lobster twice as much.
Here is another weird thing - we tendered from so far out you literally could not see the ship in the fog. Meanwhile, Celebrity Summit was also in town and it was anchored just about three minutes away by tender (we were about 15 minutes). The itinerary did not show this as a tender port, meaning that if you have tender issues and you booked this cruise for Bar Harbor, you would have been sadly disappointed.
So far we have spent a LOT of time on this ship, and it has a tiny casino, almost no shopping, very little nighttime entertainment, etc.
The best thing about this ship is the comfortable staterooms. There are FREE recent release movies on demand. Even better they actually tape each lecture and you can call it up in your stateroom with Video on Demand at any time. THAT is state of the art technology better than any other cruise ship I have been on. I still have to curse about the tiny TV set. For my wife, laying 15 feet away at the far side of the bed, with the TV set so you can’t even turn it hard enough for straight viewing for either of us, let along her side of the bed, it is a nightmare. I have a 60-inch HDTV at home 10 feet away directly in front of me, why would I pay $500/day to watch a movie under these conditions?
Another big disappointment - we went to the spa today to partake in the “thermal suite.” This is something we do on most cruise ships - you get access to the a thelassotherapy pool, scented rain showers, hot and dry saunas and great heated ceramic beds that warm up your body to the bone. These last things are the most important part of the thermal suite - and then the thelassotherapy. Well, the thermal suite has not only no thelassotherapy, it doesn’t even have a hot tub. There is one close by you can share with the public, but it was raining today (useless to us), and it’s up a set of stairs on an upper deck. Even worse, this thermal suite has no ceramic beds. All it has is teak ones. They heat up (barely) but only to about 30% the average ceramic ones. Not even really worth the effort. While we were in there a waiter came by and asked if we wanted drinks. I asked for a cup of the herbal tea they have right there in the spa. He said “OK” and never returned. Whatever. This cost us $30 apiece… about 150% what is normal, and you get far less. Not a good deal.
As far as food, I have had lobster every day on this trip. I like it, but I would like more variety. The “buffet” on this ship is good but it has a theme every day, and if you don’t like the theme (so far for me there have been two days when I didn’t) you are out of luck.
Today it was “British fare,” the choices being shephard’s pie and cottage pie (or something); one is mashed potatoes with minced beef, the other is the same with minced lamb. You get the picture? On seafood day, it was just seafood - nothing else. On Asian day it was all Asian - nothing else.
The regular restaurant has been unimpressive to me each night. My fish was dry and chewy. The salad is just lettuce and such little dressing you can barely see it. The bread with dinner are a few nice pieces of chewy French bread, but the rest is pasty white bread and white ciabatta, - basic white bread (wonder bread?) - no roles, no whole grain, nothing seeded. It comes with a teaspoon of olive oil (we have to ask for more nightly).
The “name entertainment” aside from the regular stage shows has been pianist Eliot Finkel (I worked with him on Holland America in 1993 - every cruiser knows him), followed by his brother Ira Finkel. Then the third night it was “Elliot and Ira Finkel Together,” - that’s it.
In any case - I know a certain person who would tell me, “You just don’t understand luxury cruising.” (I do, believe me. I was reared working for Royal Viking Line). This person says it’s all about the service. That the trick is to ask for what you want and then to watch them enjoy pleasing you. The service is great here - my wife’s dietary requirements have been met nightly. But I personally do not enjoy having to direct people on what I want night after night (which is what was required although before the cruise we filled in the “dietary requirements” section of the web site - no sugar, gluten-free, vegetarian. When we got on board there was NO mention of the fact that we had specified that in our check-in. We had to discuss it with three different chefs, one for each restaurant, and each one had a different interpretation).
So - you can say I “don’t get” luxury cruising, but I prefer it when they get it. Not when I have to accept what they give me, and I am supposed to think that is “great.”
Still, I have to say that most people here love this cruise line, and I can’t argue with that. I will say everyone is very friendly, the food is mostly very good and the staff is very accommodating. But I also have to say the average age is probably over 60, and the sidewalks are rolled up at 10:00. This is a very quiet cruise. Part of it may be this itinerary (but my gut tells me that is not so much of a factor).
A lot of people stay on for several cruises in a row - mostly the very elderly. I only see them at mealtimes. We have met a few somewhat “wild” people, and also a few pompous asses who mention where they are from with every breath they take (as if we care).
Would I take Seabourn again? If I saw a port-intensive itinerary I would certainly consider it. But I would not come for the food or the entertainment. The service is excellent, but I don’t cruise for service, I cruise to travel.
Last night we ate in Restaurant 2 - What an excellent meal that was. Another thing I have noticed is that the wine is exquisite with every meal - far more so that with other lines where the wine has been included with dinner. The whites are always just the right touch on the tongue. But the reds are exquisite - with the perfect texture and never an afterbite.
Restaurant 2 is a tasting menu with about 20 different things, coming in sets of three or four items at a time. I will get into more detail about this later, as we are just now pulling into NY City and I want to get this posted before my day in Manhattan begins.